Titania is the largest of the 27 known moons of Uranus and both planet and all of its moons are some of the furthest out in space. Uranus is the seventh planet in our solar system and all of the objects in its realm receive less sunlight. The distance of the moons made it impossible to discover until the era of space technology.
Nearing 200 years after its discovery, the Voyager 2 spacecraft flew by Titania and found signs of that it was potentially geologically active. Finding a moon with so many large fault valleys, surprised and delighted scientists. The crust breaks that are carried out in two directions indicate that Titania has some form of tectonic disruption.
Titania follows suit with many of the moons of Uranus in that it is a kind of neutral gray color. The moon also has some highly reflective deposits along the valley walls facing the sun which could possibly be frost.
- Orbits: Uranus
- Discovered By: William Herschel
- Discovery Date: January 11, 1787
- Diameter: 1,577.8 km
- Mass: 3.42 × 10^21 kg (4.7% Moon)
- Orbital Period: 8.7 days
- Orbit Distance: 436,300 km
- Surface Temperature: – 203 degrees C
Famed British astronomer, William Herschel discovered Titania on January 11, 1787. It was on this same day that he also discovered the second largest moon of Uranus, Oberon. It was not too much later that he put in a report that he had discovered four additional satellites, although the scientific community didn’t that report serious until fifty years later when the sophistication of telescopes became a bit more refined and other astronomers saw the moons that Herschel reported.
Titania was named after a character in William Shakespeare’s 16th century play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” In the play, Titania is the queen of the fairies.
Formation, Structure and Surface:
Scientists have observed Titania for a long time and theorized that it is composed of equal parts of ice and rock. The rock may include organic compounds and carbonaceous materials. The concept was later supported that Titania has an unusually high density for one of Uranus’ moons through the use of infrared spectroscopic observations from 2001-2005. The studies showed that the surface of Titania has crystalline water ice.
Scientists also think that Titania may be different in that it has an icy mantle that surrounds a rocky core. Researchers estimate that the radius of the core would be around 320 mi/520 km and would make up about 66% of the moon’s radius and 58% of its mass.
The state of the icy mantle isn’t known, however, if the ice contains ammonia this would act as an antifreeze and allow mushy or liquid water. If these conditions exist then it gives an increased percentage that there is a layer of liquid ocean at the boundary of the core-mantle. Scientists estimate that if it exists, the ocean thickness would be around 31 mi/50 km.
The features on Titania range from areas that have suffered impact craters to faults and valleys. The surface does show some rather large impact basins, however, a majority of them are smaller. Near the top of the moon there is a big, double-walled crater, but many of the craters seem to be partially submerged. This surface feature indicates that there has been activity to resurface or cover the impacts, making the surface young.
Titania’s diameter is 1,578 km and it is the largest of all of the moons of Uranus and the eighth largest moon in the entire solar system. Of the five major moons, it is also the second farthest moon from its parent planet
Titania is tilted slightly towards Uranus’ equator. It has an orbital and rotational period that are both exactly 8.7 days. This means that like many of the moons, Titania is tidally locked, allowing only one side to face Uranus.
Uranus is also slightly tilted and orbits the sun on its side. All of the moons of Uranus orbit the planet on the equatorial plane and therefore they all have extreme seasonal cycles. Both the southern and northern poles experience 42 year cycles of either complete sunlight or complete darkness.
Atmosphere and Magnetosphere:
Titania doesn’t have any atmosphere or a magnetosphere.
Titania does have a carbon cycle that exists where carbon dioxide is created in the pole regions. When that pole region faces the sun it heats up the carbon dioxide and it migrates to the equatorial area and other pole. Titania doesn’t have the ability to hold onto any gases that are created and therefore it leaves and escapes into space.
Could Life Exist?
The scientific community has established criteria that is required for a planet or moon to support life. Liquid water is one of the requirements but even if Titania has some form of liquid water under its icy surface, it doesn’t have the rest of the requirements.
- Due to Titania’s tilt, each of Titania’s poles experience 42 years in the sun and 42 years in the dark.
- Scientists believe that Titania’s high density indicates that it was created either from the leftover debris when Uranus was first formed or from the debris of a possible collision with Uranus that caused the tilt of the planet to its side.
- The exact materials that make up Titania are unknown, but due to the high density it’s thought that Titania is made up of mostly water ice combined with some rocky materials.
- Researchers don’t know if Titania has any geological processes still occurring, but the presence of the large canyons on the icy crust may be the result of the freezing process right after the moon was formed. The process of freezing would have expanded the moon around 7% causing the surface to crack and fissures to be exposed.
- An unusual situation occurs due to Uranus and its moons orbiting on their sides. The moons get more solar radiation at their pole areas than at the equators. When this happens any carbon dioxide that has collected at the poles is warmed and when it reaches -1880 C, the carbon dioxide moves in a process called sublimation to the opposite polar and equatorial area. When the opposite pole is facing the sun the process is reversed. This gives Titania a kind of “carbon cycle.”
- It’s believed that the original surface of Titania has been hidden or covered over due to resurfacing.
- Scientists are unsure whether the resurfacing process of Titania is due to tectonic movement because so much of the surface is covered in the ejecta from impacts that have hidden any impact craters.
- Given that Uranus and all of its moons are tilted on their side, the fact that Titania has an almost circular orbit is unusual. Titania takes 8.7 days to complete its orbit and travels at an average speed of 3.64 km/second.
- For over fifty years, the astronomer William Herschel was the only one that had observed Titania. Herschel’s telescope seemed to be better than others during his time, but even then, astronomers in his day didn’t believe him.
- Titania has a huge canyon named Messina Chasma that extends 927 mi/1,492 km. The chasm begins at the moon’s equator and stretches almost to its south pole.
- The Messina chasm is made up of two regular faults that cut across a lot of impact craters.
- The Messina chasm is named after a location in the William Shakespeare play “Much Ado About Nothing.”
The Voyager 2 spacecraft located an additional 10 moons around Uranus when it visited in 1986. When it did a flyby past Titania it was during the dark winter phase of the northern hemisphere which was the same on all of the moons. Voyager 2 couldn’t see a lot of detail and only a bit of the southern hemisphere.
Astronomers are using high powered Earth-based and space telescopes to accomplish additional research on Titania, Uranus and many of the other moons orbiting Uranus. Using the telescopes scientists located three additional moons of Mab, Cupid, and Margaret in 2003.
Voyager 2 did flybys of Titania in 1986. The probe was only able to photograph 40% of the moon’s surface due to the darkened winter condition. Only 24% of the images were within precision required for geological mapping.
Facts about Titania Moon for Kids:
- Titania is considered to be intermediate in brightness compared to the other moons of Uranus. It is somewhere in the middle between Oberon and Umbriel’s dark and the brightness of Miranda and Ariel.
- Titania seems to match all of the moons of Uranus in that its geology shows a combination of resurfacing and impact craters. It’s believed that the smoothness of the resurfacing is due to the settling of materials from impacts.
- Scientists that have studied Titania recognize that it has three geological feature classes that include: craters, faults, and canyons.
- Geologists sometimes call canyons grabens and faults are sometimes calls scarps.
- The largest crater on Titania is named Gertrude, after Hamlet’s mother.
- The canyons on Titania vary in size from 12-31 mi/20-50 km and 2-5 km in depth.
- The most noticeable chasm on Titania is the Messina Chasm which is around 930 mi/1,500 km.
- Scientists think that the canyons may be the youngest of Titania’s geological features since they cut through pre-existing craters.
- Other surface features on Titania are named after characters in William Shakespeare’s plays including Ursula, Jessica, and Imogen, characters in Much Ado About Nothing, The Merchant of Venice, and Cymebline.
- Titania has the presence of carbon dioxide but it is believed to only exist on a seasonal basis. Scientists believe that other gases might be present including methane and nitrogen.
- Titania’s weak gravity lets any gases escape into space and therefore it doesn’t have an atmosphere.
Kim Stanley Robinson’s 1997 “Blue Mars” includes a description of a colony that exists on Titania where human beings have adapted to the low light levels and gravity.
In Earth 2160, the ED (Eurasian Dynasty) has a military prison located on Titania. It is later destroyed by LC forces that have gone rogue.
In the series “Expanse,” Titania is a location for the furthest outpost for humanity.
Pink Floyd created the song “Asronomy Domine” in 1967 that includes a line that mentions Titania.